We know it’s only September, but there’s no better time than now to prepare for winter storms.

The Farmers’ Almanac official winter weather forecast for the 2015-2016 season just debuted, and it predicts a very intense winter on the East Coast and in the Midwest, while western regions, including Colorado and Wyoming, may see more of a “typical winter”.

Heavy snow, ice, and extreme cold can last for several days, and your family should have a plan to remain safe during dangerous times.

When storms dominate the forecast, there are a few steps every family should take that may not come to mind immediately. Stocking up on non-perishable food items and minimizing outdoor travel should seem like no-brainers, but beyond finding a matched set of mittens, many families forget some of the other simple steps required to stay safe and warm.

Run the water regularly - Your plumbing system is critical during a winter storm. Pipes freezing and bursting could lead to some of the most expensive home repairs. This is especially true in southern climates where pipes may be more exposed in an attic or crawl space. Opening the faucet, even just a drip, will provide relief from the excessive pressure that comes with ice blockage, and can prevent a burst pipe.

Have extra pet food and water for pets on hand - Non-perishable food items and extra water (a gallon a day per person) are essential when preparing for an upcoming storm. But don't forget about the other important members of the family. Make sure you have extra food, water and medication for your pets.

Install storm windows - During the summer months, when you're making home improvements, take a good look at your windows. Check for air leaks on windy days, and make upgrades if necessary. Storm windows provide an extra layer of protection for your home.

Have a home backup generator installed - When the power goes out during the storm, a home backup generator keeps the lights and heat on. An automatic home backup generator, like one of Generac's Guardian Series models, is a great option because it immediately kicks on when your power goes out and maintains a sense of normalcy when all else fails.

Reverse your ceiling fan - Ceiling fans aren't only useful in the summer. Reversing the direction of your ceiling fan pushes warm air downward. If you make sure your fan is turning clockwise, you'll stay more comfortable during cold winter months.

Winterize your sprinkler system - This should be done at the end of the fall. Winterizing your sprinkler system includes turning off the water supply, and ridding the pipes of excess water by blowing compressed air through the sprinkler lines.

Reduce risk of ice dams by properly insulating the attic - Ice dams occur when snow on your roof melts and then freezes near the edge of the roof. This blocks water from draining off the roof and forces it into your attic. Proper insulation reduces the amount of heat that escapes  through the roof of your home. The risk of ice damming can be reduced by making sure your roof and insulation are both in good shape.

It's essential to remember to stay warm, dry and calm during a winter storm. Being prepared before a storm occurs is crucial. By having a plan, you can ensure safety for your family and provide stability for your home.

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